The Liturgical year of the Catholic Church is divided into six seasons – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Ordinary Time. In addition, the Church observes memorials, feasts, and solemnities. The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is one of the great solemnities. It occurs on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday, which always falls on a Thursday, and often passes unnoticed by most Christians. So, many churches move the Ascension Day to the following Sunday to ensure more people participate in the celebration.
What is the meaning and importance of the ascension of Jesus Christ?
Today’s readings, from the Book of Acts (1:9-11), the Gospel of Mark (16:15-20) and the Gospel of Luke (24:50-53) give a detailed account of Jesus’ ascension.
You may remember since Easter Sunday we have been reading several familiar stories of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances to his disciples. During his appearances Jesus greeted them with peace and talked to them. He walked with them to Emmaus and explained the scriptures to them. He showed them his wounds and asked them to touch him. He shared a meal with them. He dispelled their doubts and fears and proved to them that he is alive. He instructed them not to leave Jerusalem until they had received power from the Holy Spirit.
On the fortieth day, while the disciples had gathered in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared before them for the last time. They asked him whether he was going to “restore the kingdom of Israel” at the time. Jesus said to them that “it is not for them to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by His own authority but that they would be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and bear witness to the gospel”. He then charged them to “go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to everyone, to heal the sick, to cast out demons and told them that no deadly or poisonous thing will harm them”.
Jesus’ appearance ended with him being “taken up into heaven and seated at the right hand of God” in their sight. After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the disciples received the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had promised, and then they went everywhere preaching the gospel of Jesus, healing people and working many signs and wonders with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is the event we commemorate today.
The Ascension of the Lord is important for two reasons.
- With the Ascension Jesus decisively ended his time on Earth and entered God’s heavenly domain, so that his own words should be fulfilled. He had told his disciples, “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man”, John (3:13). He had said to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”, John (20:17). Jesus had descended from heaven in the Incarnation and returned to heaven in the ascension.
However, he ascended to heaven not only to return to where he came from but also to prepare a place for those who believe in him. He said, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you”, John (14:2). Yes, the Ascension of the Lord is a great consolation to all who are afraid of death or afraid of dying. Let us, therefore, encourage one another to remember that Jesus descended, died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven for us. Let us believe and live in the hope of one day being with him in God’s kingdom forever.
- Jesus Christ, having entered heaven once again, intercedes constantly for us for the power of the Holy Spirit which is very essential to the life of faith in Christ. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don’t go away the Holy Spirit won’t come to you. But If I go, I will send him to you”, John (16:7). Jesus has not promised to restore to us our health, family, relationships, work, fortunes, and finances according to our own times, ways, thoughts, plans and desires but in God’s time. Meanwhile he has promised us the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can courageously preach his gospel, minister healing in his name, wisely deal with difficult people and take on evil and win.
Let us today, therefore, earnestly pray for ourselves and our Church that we may be blessed with all joy and peace in believing in the ascension of the Lord and continue to seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit – the fear of God, piety, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, understanding and wisdom.
God Bless You!